When Brian and I booked our anniversary trip to Paris a few months ago, I fully expected to go there and fall in love with the city and the culture and the romanticism of it all. And I definitely planned to go for runs along the Seine.
Instead — bummer alert — I spent four days in Paris feeling mostly stressed and uncomfortable.
This, of course, has nothing to do with the city itself. I think that under different, Crohn’s-free circumstances, I absolutely would have fallen in love with the city and the culture and that aforementioned romanticism. But unfortunately, my health got the best of me, and I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the trip the way I wanted. (I didn’t even end up packing my running stuff.)
I’m not here to be a total downer, though: Despite the fact that I spent more time looking for bathrooms than looking at monuments and architecture, coupled with the fact that I was in the bathroom pretty constantly during our adventures, Brian and I were able to get out and be total tourists. I ate incredible cheese (seriously, the best cheese of my life), gawked under a glittering Eiffel Tower, and drank delicious wine and champagne.
Here’s a little look at the highlights from our trip.
Monday: Our first wedding anniversary! We arrived at Charles de Gaulle at 1 PM local time and headed to our hotel. The hotel was lovely, and was in a neighborhood-y area within walking distance to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees.
We got lunch at the hotel bar — the Croque Monsieur was my favorite lunch of the trip — and then accidentally took a several-hours-long nap, missing our dinner reservation. Oops.
In the evening — when we finally woke up — we walked to see the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees, got dinner (the best steak frites I’ve ever had), and then walked to see the Eiffel Tower.
Tuesday: Woke up at noon. Oops. The jet lag hit us hard on this trip — each night we were up until 3 AM, unable to sleep, and would then sleep in way too late each morning. YOLO.
We ordered breakfast to the room while we got ready for the day then headed to the Musee d’Orsay. I wanted to see all the Degas paintings that wallpapered my childhood bedroom, as well as the Little Dancer sculpture. I cried when I saw all that, which was weird and unexpected. Crohn’s hormones? IDK. I loved all the Degas stuff, and of course the other classics like the Monets and the Van Goghs and also the bathrooms.
From there, we headed to Notre Dame, walked through the cathedral (during mass! very cool), and then got a late lunch/early dinner at a cool bar nearby. I ate so much cheese. It was so good. (Spoiler alert: I was constipated by the last day of the trip. Fromage fail.)
Finally, we took a boat cruise along the Seine, which was a fun way to see the city. I prefer to sightsee and see things during the day, but Brian likes seeing everything all lit up at night. So he was all, “Wow, those buildings look so nice glowing like that!” and I was all, “How can you even see anything?”
Last stop: crepes by the Eiffel Tower. Duh.
Wednesday: Woke up at 8 AM, with a little help from an alarm clock. Good job, Cristianos! You did it!
My primary request for this trip was to eat fresh chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat) for breakfast every morning. So we started this day with a visit to the boulangerie near our hotel, where I, as intended, inhaled [maybe more than] one warm chocolate croissant. It was heavenly.
Then we spent the day at Versailles! I am so happy we did this. Versailles is a bit removed from the center of Paris — and most visitors coming from Paris take a train there, but we took an Uber because help me, I have Crohn’s and need to be able to pull over at a moment’s notice — but it’s definitely worth the trip. We did a self-guided audio tour of the Chateau, and then headed out to the gardens.
I wanted to rent a golf cart to explore the gardens (walking is hard for me right now, wahhhh poor Ali), but obviously Brian thought getting bikes would be more fun. Brian was right. This was my favorite part of the entire trip. We rode around to see as much as we could, and it felt so carefree and pleasant. I could’ve stayed there riding around all day. (That was also the most relaxed I felt the entire trip! Maybe I need to do more casual bike riding around fancy gardens?)
Eventually we headed back into Paris, got a late lunch/early dinner, and then went to the Moulin Rouge!
I have always loved the movie Moulin Rouge! I have the movie poster framed in my office, and have always been obsessed with the soundtrack, the dancing, all of it. So of course I wanted to see the actual Moulin Rouge. But we didn’t just see it — we went to the nightly revue show, too! The show was insane. The choreography and dancing were pretty rough, and it was all super cheesy and silly, but we had a great time. (Though I could’ve done without the part where the girl dove into an actual snake-filled tank in the middle of the stage. Did not like.) So I guess if you still can’t get tickets to Hamilton, go see Feerie at the Moulin Rouge instead. Same same.
We ended the night with a drink — and a cheese plate, leave me alone — back at the hotel bar. Good day.
Thursday: Slept until 10 AM. Ugh. Those lazy Cristiano kids!
We hit up the same boulangerie for breakfast/multiple croissants, then visited the Louvre.
We saw the famous stuff — the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo — and spent hours wandering the floors. There are more than 70,000 pieces of art inside the Louvre — quite the collection!
Next, we went to the top of the Montparnasse Tower — the tallest building in Paris — to see the city from a different vantage point. I loved doing this. I didn’t really have a desire to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower because I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. (Just like how I always think it’s crazy that people in NYC want to go to the top of the Empire State Building — no no, people, go to the Top of the Rock so you can gawk at the Emp!) By going to the top of the Montparnasse Tower, we could see everything: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Luxembourg Gardens, Sacre Coeur, all the tents set up for Fashion Week, etc. (And there were bathrooms up there, so…bonus.)
Then, Brian wanted to go check out the Catacombs, and I had nooooo desire to do that, so while he explored the underground tunnels made out of actual human remains, I set up shop at an outdoor cafe and enjoyed some champagne and a Nutella crepe. I was so happy.
When Brian was done, we walked to a restaurant nearby for our last dinner, where I thought I ordered shrimp cocktail but I actually ordered eight giant, whole prawns with googly eyes staring back at me. My bad. (Turns out, all those French lessons I did on Duolingo weren’t totally helpful. I knew words like le chat and pommes, but being able to talk about a cat and an apple came in handy exactly zero times.)
Friday: Up at 8, hotel breakfast buffet at 9, then to the airport at 11. Au revoir, Paris!
My biggest and most sincere MERCI BEAUCOUP to my internet friend Cathryn, who so kindly sent me an “everything you need to know about the bathrooms in Paris” email before the trip. That information was priceless. (Seriously, do French people just not poop? Is that just an American thing, because we are “disgusting?”)
Hopefully someday I’ll make my way back to Paris so I can spend more time aimlessly walking around the city, eating all that good fromage and drinking more of the fantastic wine and champagne — without worrying about the location of the nearest bathroom. But until then, I’m glad I was able to experience a touch of what the City of Lights has to offer!
Happy First Year of Marriage, Brian! Here’s to a million more.
HAVE YOU BEEN TO PARIS?! What did you love? What’s your favorite kind of cheese? (I love Brie and Manchego.)